Mudville Magazine: The Voice of Baseball

Swami Sez—

Spring training is the time when all baseball fans stretch their imaginations a little or, in most cases, a lot, in the hope that they'll finally see their team to a pennant. With the baseball season longer than any other sport, and when teams like Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Milwaukee see their seasons over as soon as mid-April, we need to have a little something to believe in right out of the gate. Not all of us live in New York, you know. From the hordes of Red Sox fans lighting a candle at the basilica to the (literally?) five or so Expos fans cursing MLB in French, each one of us keeps an eye on spring training and thinks, "this year, maybe we'll win big." Some of us, trying to pretend that we're realists, look for nothing more than simple improvement, perhaps a climb toward .500. But when that seed's planted, only the cold at heart fail to let it grow into the wish that their team will win it all.

The pundits fail to understand this. Armed with statistics and logic, writers from ESPN to Baseball Digest to your local rag scribble out predictions with all the redundancy of Soviet wonks parroting the party line. Consider these daring portents: The Yankees win their division; Seattle takes the West; The Braves win with superior pitching, etc. Basically it boils down to the same teams winning that won last year, with the possible exception of the Twins and White Sox duking it out. Thank you brave souls for draining the color out of February! The folks in that frigid wasteland of Montreal thank you!

Now, we're not suggesting some sort of Globe Magazine-style guessing, with Jesus Christ appearing to toss out the first ball for the Padres. But baseball writers forget the bottom line: Baseball is entertainment. Give us something to talk about, even if, God forbid, you're wrong. What's the worst that's going to happen? The economy will falter? The Yankees will suffer some Enron-style collapse? Or do you really believe that readers will sit back in the cold of late October and crack open their old copies Baseball Weekly and gasp with surprise that the staff risked choosing the Yankees to repeat?

With that, the folks here at Mudville are quite sick of the snow hardening on the ground, of the salt caked to the car and turn our weary eyes to the field. Our own 2002 baseball predictions, with a good balance of straight dope and outright hope.


Like it or not, all roads begin with the New York Yankees. But the roads don't always have to be so flat this year. This time the road to another redundant title is filled with potholes, and the '98 Ford Excursion has shock problems and a busted transmission. For starters, let's remind David Wells that you can't go home again. Steinbrenner, furious that his team might just be in second or third at the break, will get his usual itchiness, and the desire to oust someone won't result in Joe Torre's job, but in the complete and utter elimination of poor Joe's staff, from Stottlemeyer to Zimmer. A late season surge sends the Yanks back to the top of this weak division. Gone are the studious, precision Yankees of the past five years and out of the chaos rises a Yankees team similar to their 1970s counterparts. Not the Reggie one. The one that lost to the Reds in four.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays win the wild-card spot in a thrilling, one-run tie-breaker from the Texas Rangers. That's right, the Rays. Maybe someone made a deal with the Devil, a la "Damn Yankees". Maybe their pitching matured from last years second half surge. Maybe something just clicked, in a way that the Sabermetricians can't figure out until they've come up with ten new statistics in the offseason to explain everything away. But with combined with failures in Boston, Toronto and Baltimore and a lightness in competition outside Seattle and New York, the little team that could wins 89 games and squeezes in.

Texas, on the other hand, finds 89 games demeaning in light of its spending and spending and spending. So where one team sees success, the other sips the bitter draught of failure, and the one-game playoff goes to the folks with the gleam in their eyes. However, this same gleam cannot keep them from being speared by the Mariners, who could care less about the damn Rays.

The Seattle Mariners win their division behind Ichiro Suzuki's breaking the .400 barrier. Essentially taking over the Yankees role as the home of the fundamental, precision win, they take their division by almost twenty games, only to bow to...

The Minnesota Twins. Oh, the Twins win their division, all right, but become the first team to get to the playoffs with a losing record, a 79-83 triumph that bests the Chicago White Sox by one game. Sputtering into the playoffs, they manage to regroup and defeat the Yankees, and then the Mariners, and win the hearts of America. All hail the Twins!


We open with the Atlanta Braves, for whom success seems to be as elusive, and thrilling, as a good baseball movie. The Braves fall to fourth this year, thank god, giving the National League a breather from those continued wails of "good pitching beats good hitting"—which seems to be the case in the regular season and not the post season. Instead, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Florida Marlins race for the division, the winner being the team that can steal the most players from the drowning Expos franchise. Of course, the Phillies win, but barely.

The Arizona Diamondbacks find a thirty game winner in either Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling. The other wins just over twenty. However, this aging team falls apart, barely taking 80 games. This leaves the San Francisco Giants to take over, and take over they will, fighting off a resilient San Diego Padres team. But the Barry Bondsmen win out, making a go of it in the playoffs, wasting...

Everybody's favorite, The St. Louis Cardinals, in three games. But that's not the story. For this year belongs to the Chicago Cubs. Behind the hitting of Sammy Sosa, the pitching of Kerry Wood, the Cubbies defy all odd, storming through the playoffs, winning each round by going the distance in tight games, often into extra innings. The Twins clobber the Cubs in the first three games, only see the determined Chicago squad take one, then two, then three games straight. Finally, back in the dome, going the distance, Kerry Wood strikes out 21 and Sosa blasts the game winner in the thirteenth, for what is considered the greatest series of all time. Two days later, and back in Chicago, the city celebrates, as delirious fans crowd the streets, throwing open windows and showering the victors in ticker-tape. At first, no one notices the clouds gathering overhead. But then, as the Mayor is about to introduce the victors, a scream pierces the revelry. Looking up, the crowd gasps, as the face of the Devil fills the sky!

Of course, it is none other than Bud Selig.


I, State-Your-Name...

You can always tell when you're in a city that hasn't had a baseball team playing for, oh, almost a hundred years. Minnesota has a forty-plus history of being a major-league town, and San Francisco just a wee bit more. At both, baseball fans continually mangle what is one of the sports most hollowed traditions:

They sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" wrong.

How, you may ask, does one sing this anthem incorrectly? Understand that this is not to criticize the performances. Certainly the crowd's out of tune and unsynchronized. That's to be expected. And volume isn't a problem—Twins and Giants fans belt out the lyrics with as much moxie as anyone. No, what's troubling is the fact that everyone sings the following lyrics exactly as the Trinitron displays them:

"And we'll root, root, root for the home team,
if they don't win it's a shame!"

It's not "the home team", it's "the Twins". It's "the Giants". They are the home teams in question.

Now, when this alarming fact has been pointed out to the surrounding crowd, there have been multiple reactions. The first is the stare of people hoping that you're not, in some way, dangerous. Then, seeing the earnestness in our eyes, most admit they never really gave it much thought, and would be happy to continue in that frame of mind. Giants fans especially, their bellies full of cappuccino, fine beer and wine, and sushi, are loathe to discuss the game at all, since being at the park is more about being seen than seeing a game. Some claim they don't know what the fuss is about—that's the way they've always sang the tune. That's fair, though if you have ever heard audiences sing it other parks they've figured out to squeeze in the proper noun. However, the worst excuse to come from the uninitiated is from the Twin supporter. They claim that "Twins" is a word with only one syllable and thereby difficult to stretch into a two-syllable space. It could be pointed out that "Cubs" is just as short and stubby and they've done well with "Cubbies" over the years. True, the Twins don't really have another nickname, aside from that depreciating "Twinkies" moniker. But you could elongate "Twins" and sing "Twi-ins", although that makes it sound like you're slurring the words. Our suggestion is to leave a pregnant pause following "Twins":

"And we'll root, root, root for the Twins... (silent beat),
if they don't win it's a shame!"

Doesn't that sound better? Suddenly the tune becomes yet another rallying cry for the Twins, who, in their multitude of close games last year, thrived on exactly this type of support, especially in late innings like the seventh.

Then again, you could just keep drinking and not worry about it.


In the past, we have oft heard of the conflict betwixt 'fans' of baseball, and 'purists'.  And yet, dear readers, there is another group of aficionados of the great American pastime— the Mudville fan.  Behold our little primer on

How to spot the three types of Baseball fans


Casual fan:  Wears any type of cap, forward or backwards, without concern for loyalty, just fashion.
.  Like the pros, sports only pure wool caps— even on the hottest of days.  Team logos are of whichever team the purist has been following since childhood, or of a vintage team whose roster the purist knows by heart.
Mudville fan: Doffs black umpires caps, backwards, with protective face-gear.


Casual fan:  Wears whatever gaudy shirt is in style.
:  Carefully attired in autographed jersey purchased online.
Mudville fan
:  Proudly wearing white J.C. Penney t-shirt with team logo written in permanent ink on breast.


Casual fan: Demands the most up-to-date foodstuffs available.  From sushi to nachos to pizza, drowned in beverages ranging from fine wines to fresh juice and smoothies.
:  Eats only the classics— popcorn, peanuts, Cracker-Jack, and hot dogs— washed down with cheap beer or pop, for the kiddies.
Mudville fan
:  Smuggles plates, napkins and that night's meal, usually stews, in hot water bottles that make wife look 'pregnant'.  Sips water from bathroom faucets. 


Casual fan:  Never.  Supports banning all tobacco products.
:  What's wrong with a good cigar?
Mudville fan
: Pinches snuff or sucks on bidis regardless of laws.


Casual fan:  Shouts along with Queen's "We Will Rock You".
: Warbles "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".
Mudville fan:  Performs Sousa tunes on the tuba.


Casual fan:  Shouts profanity; hurls quarters, garbage at hated players.
: Chants "Hey Badda Badda, Suh-Wing!"
Mudville fan:  Shrieks the piercing cry of dying rabbits; rubs balloons together.


Casual fan:  Leaves in the seventh to insure a speedy exit.
:  Stays until the very last out.
Mudville fan
: Unrolls sleeping bag, leaves first thing in the morning.


Bill Veeck


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